A TSA officer reads the X-ray of a laptop at BWI Airport.
A TSA officer reads the X-ray of a laptop at BWI Airport. - 
Listen To The Story


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: British and German leaders met today to talk about the terror threat that involves cargo. That's after mail bombs were sent from Yemen last week and traveled through airports in London. The cargo industry continues to respond, and we could see some big changes in the way we ship things around the world.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD: If air cargo is scanned before loading, and most it isn't, it'll be scanned by conventional x-ray. But that technology is not very good at detecting small amounts of explosives, as in this case. Security analyst say we should be using the far more sophisticated equipment currently used to scan passenger's checked baggage. But there are two problems with this -- that equipment is much more expensive than x-ray machines. And at the moment it will only work on small items of freight.

Norman Shanks is a security consultant, who helped develop the newer technology. He says it won't work on whole containers of cargo.

NORMAN SHANKS: We have to break them down into individual packages. Take time, it will be costly, but I think we have to introduce that for packages coming from known risks whether they're either people or from particular countries.

Most countries say the shipping companies and the airlines should bear that extra cost and they'll undoubtedly pass it on to their customers.

Air freight just got more expensive.

In London, this is Stephen Beard, for Marketplace.

For more from Stephen Beard on this story, check out his earlier coverage.